Blunt Planter Advice
Jan 10, 2019
Remember when the common suggestion when adjusting finger-pickup-style planter seed meters was to adjust tension on the fingers until it just started to "hurt" when you turned the seed meter by hand? How about when the rule of thumb was for vacuum seed meters, with seed plates installed, should spin maybe 15 degrees further after you gave them a flip-turn with your hand?
I remember those times, and felt pretty cocky that I had set those seed meters accurately. Boy, was I wrong. Thousands of hours spent experimenting with seed meter test stands by people far smarter than me have proved that those old guidelines weren't very accurate. Better than nothing, but barely.
I'm now told, and have seen on test stands myself, that an inch/pound variation in the turning torque of seed meters can make a huge difference in metering accuracy. Will seed meters plant "close" to accurate using those old guidelines? Sure. They'll put 30,000 seeds per acre in the ground, acre after acre. But those 30,000 seeds may be spaced anywhere from 3 inches to 10 inches apart, and may be planted in clumps of three or with major skips.
Like I said, I used to be confident I could set a seed meter by feel. If there's one thing I've learned over the years, never trust feelings.
Answer to follow-up questions by readers: Nope, this isn't a ploy to sell devices to set seed meters. Nor is it push to get readers to pay to have their seed meters tested. It's just an acknowledgment that what I once thought was a true and accurate way to set planter meters isn't as accurate as I thought. Setting meters "by hand" is better than nothing, but not as accurate as having them tested and set on a seed test stand. If a farmer is happy with the stand of corn he's getting from his hand-adjusted meters, I'll be the last person to tell him he's wrong.